The US wind industry has just finished another record year, and the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) is looking ahead to further progress in 2009. Despite the industry being rocked by the financial crisis and economic downturn, it is also buoyed by a strong strategic position and the prospect of strong policy support from Congress and the new President.
Wind energy projections for 2009:
- At least one new wind power project may soon surpass FPL Energy’s 736-megawatt (MW) Horse Hollow wind farm, which has been the world’s largest for three years running. One project under expansion, by E.ON Climate & Renewables (EC&R) North America, and currently scheduled to go online in mid-2009, would have a total capacity of 781.5 megawatts (MW) when it is completed.
- Wind has become a mainstream option for new power generation, second only to natural gas plants in new capacity built from 2005 through 2007, and probably again in 2008, pending year-end figures. Measured by market share, wind provided 35% of all new generation added in the U.S. in 2007. 2008 is predicted to have brought 7,500 MW of new capacity when the year end figures are released, wind is likely to contribute at least 35% of new capacity added this year.
- President-elect Obama has outlined a range of policies that would encourage investments in wind power and other forms of renewable energy. The policies would signal a welcome shift for renewable energy technologies towards long-term policy stability. New policies include:
- Adjusting the federal production tax credit (PTC) to make it more effective in the midst of the current economic downturn and extending it for a longer term (it expires at the end of 2009);
- Establishing a national renewable electricity standard (RES) with a target of generating at least 25% of the nation’s electricity from renewables by 2025, and a near-term target of 10% by 2012 (a Washington Post poll in early December found that 84% of Americans support such a standard);
- Legislation and initiatives to develop a high-voltage interstate transmission “highway” for renewable energy; and
- Strong national climate change legislation.
For a full list and description of the policies, see www.newwindagenda.org
- Expect one or more states to implement (Indiana) or strengthen (Wisconsin and New York) their Renewable Electricity Standards (RES), bringing the number of states with an RES from 28 to perhaps 30. Look also for some states, including some without an RES (Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska) to develop a process to facilitate investment in transmission for electricity generated using renewables. Texas, Colorado, Minnesota, and California have already shown the way with pro-active transmission policies for renewable energy.
- Under its 20% wind by 2030 scenario (www.20percentwind.org), the U.S. Department of Energy found that 20% wind would likely reduce the need for new coal and leave the level of nuclear power unchanged.
- Look for more community wind proposals in 2009, and more AWEA education and outreach on the topic over the course of the year.
- AWEA business membership increased from 200 in 2000, to more than 600 in 2005, and has soared over the 1,800 mark in 2008. If the trend continues, the roll of AWEA member companies could pass 2,000 by mid-2009. Most of the new members are companies in the wind power supply chain.
- Industry will finalize guidelines for wind turbine O&M: When an industry becomes mainstream, it needs to put in place a variety of standards and guidelines, and wind power is no exception. AWEA and the wind power industry are working with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to develop safety guidelines for wind turbine technicians and O&M workers at utility-scale wind projects. AWEA will be presenting educational webinars to OSHA personnel in early 2009.
- Standards will be finalized for small wind turbines will help ensure qualification for the new small wind turbine federal investment credit that is now available for homeowners and small businesses investing in a small wind system. Manufacturing standards have long been in place for utility-scale wind turbines and continue to evolve with the technology.
- Look for an effort to remove the caps for federal incentives, so that consumers can benefit fully from a credit of a full 30% of the total cost of a small wind turbine purchased for an individual home or business. Homeowners, farmers, and small-business owners now benefit from a federal incentive enacted in late 2008 for the purchase of small wind systems. Owners of small wind systems with 100 kilowatts (kW) of capacity and less can receive a credit for 30% of the total installed cost of the system, not to exceed $4,000. For turbines used for homes, the credit is additionally limited to the lesser of $4,000 or $1,000 per kW of capacity.
- Denise Bode steps in as the new CEO for the American Wind Energy Association on January 5, succeeding Randall Swisher, who retired in 2008 after leading the association and industry for 19 years. Bode takes over at an exceptional time for the industry.